Isaiah 60:1-62:5; Philippians 1:27-2:18; Psalm 72:1-20; Proverbs 24:11-12
Let This Mind Be in You
This passage in Philippians has been widely studied by theologians in all ages because of what it says about the deity of Jesus. The passage claims that Jesus existed in the form of God before He became human. In the Platonic thinking of the day, a “form” represents the essence of something. So Jesus was, in essence, God. And yet, He did not grasp at the God-equality of this form. In other words, while He could have claimed all the prerogatives belonging to God, He instead made a radical and world-changing choice: He emptied Himself of all of the “entitlements” of God and took on the form (essence) of a servant.
This does not mean He only acted like a servant. He became in every way a servant. He did not cast off his God-hood, He simply did not exercise its entitlement to glory. The extent of His obedience as a servant was revealed in His shameful death on the cross – a death reserved for only the most hated outlaws.
Paul did not add this passage as a theology lesson. No, Paul is pleading for Christian unity. He says that humility produces this unity. We must assume the “form” of servants. Paul seems to be implying that, like Jesus, the church is called to submit in obedience to God and in service to each other.
But faithful people continue to disagree about the shape of this path. It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. Paul simply points to the example of Jesus. Therefore we pray, “Lord teach us to submit ourselves to You and to each other, that in obedience to You we may walk the path set before us.”
The Rev. David Somers, Deacon
St. Matthews Episcopal Church